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Breaking the Silence: Former NHL Referees Allege Wrongful Termination Due to Reporting Offensive Language

Two former referees have filed a new complaint against the NHL, alleging that they were fired because they reported a colleague who used racist and sexually charged language for numerous years during his tenure.

According to TSN, the complaint requests that the NHL reinstate David Walkowiak and James Watkins, who officiated during Lightning games in Tampa, as well as compensate them punitive damages for how they were handled.

According to the lawsuit, the two were sacked by the NHL on February 27, 2020. They both claimed that their coworker Pat DeLorenzo Jr. used racist comments on multiple occasions during their time together at work.

“DeLorenzo made negative racial comments about [NHL] employees, including but not limited to [NHL]’s African-American hockey players and the African-American veteran, Sonya Bryson-Kirksey, who sings the national anthem at Tampa Bay Lightning games at Amalie Arena,” according to the complaint.

In November and December of 2019, the two referees brought this to the NHL’s former crew chief in Tampa, Ron Brace, who apparently did nothing about their claim.

According to the lawsuit, Watkins complained about DeLorenzo’s language to Patrice Distler, the NHL’s vice-president of human resources, and Katherine Watson, an NHL lawyer, and claimed video footage of DeLorenzo using said language.

Distler and Watson allegedly contacted Walkowiak and Watkins, who were both concerned about being fired for reporting DeLorenzo’s profanity.

Walkowiak and Watkins claim they were guaranteed whistleblower protection under the league’s rules, but were fired on Feb. 27, 2020, more than a month after the league fired DeLorenzo.

The two were fired for allegedly being a member of a group text that included DeLorenzo years before. The NHL has not disclosed the message that resulted in the pair’s dismissal.

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